Ama – Word Derivation, Meaning, Definition, Formation

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S


Ama is one of the most discussed terms in Ayurveda. The term Amaya is a synonym of disease. It means ‘that which is caused by ama’.

Ama is a product of indigestion formed in the stomach, which tends to cause many systemic diseases.

When vitiated doshas come in association with ama they are called saama doshas. These sama doshas are very tough to handle as they produces serious symptoms and are root causes for many diseases.

Similarly sama dhatus (tissues associated with ama) and sama malas (waste substances associated with ama) too cause many diseases.

Ama, owing to its sticky nature is responsible for many blocks occurring in the cells and tissues, channels etc, causing depletion of nutrition needed for tissue functions and retention of wastes within the body. All these become responsible for many diseases, lowers the strength and immunity of an individual.

Since ama cause very dangerous symptoms similar to that of poison, it is also called as ama visha.

Derivation, meaning

Derivation of the term Ama
The term Ama is pronounced as Aama. It is made up of two root words Ā + ma. In this, ‘Ā’ means towards and ‘ma’ means poison. This explains that ama is a substance which is similar to poison or poison like substance. This also explains why ama is otherwise called amavisha.

Meaning of the term Ama

  • Amavisha – A substance similar to poison
  • Ajeerna ahara or ajeerna ahara rasa – Raw, uncooked, immature, undigested and incompletely formed product of digestion of food formed in the stomach
  • Apakwa Annarasa – incompletely formed digestive juices
  • State of indigestion of food
  • Amaya – disease (amaya is a synonym of disease)
  • Mala sanchaya – accumulation of waste substances
  • Prathama dosha dushti – first contamination of dosha
  • Avipakwa dravya – that which is not processed properly

Ama definition

Definition of the term Ama
The food which has undergone acidic form, incomplete digestion is known as ama.

The substance which obstructs the channels of the body and interrupts their soft functioning is called ama.

Ama formation

What is the root cause for “Ama”?

The weak action of Agni resulting in immature undigested food which is not assimilated and is the prime cause for diseases is Ama.

A few scholars consider indigested and improperly formed essence of food (apakva ahara rasa) as Ama, while others assume it to be the accumulation of waste products in the body (mala) and a few others consider it as an early stage of dosha vitiation (dosha dushti).

Due to hypo-functioning of digestive fire, the food which is incompletely digested yields to formation of immature digestive juices stomach. Due to the retention for longer period, this undigested food undergoes fermentation and further gets contaminated. This immature digestive juices in stomach is called ama.

The first product of digestion is the nutritive part of the food. This is the first tissue formed in the body. In Ama, it is incompletely processed due to the debility of digestive fire located in the stomach is called ama.

That part of nutritive juices which has been left out without being processed properly after the digestion of food due to weak digestive fire is called ama. This ama is the root source of all the diseases.

Definition of ama showing ama as improper formation of rasa due to weak tissue fire (rasa agni mandhya)
The essence of digested food (nutritive juice) is said to be the fuel for the body. Rasagni (the fire located in the Rasa dhatu) is the first tissue level agni which helps in the formation of rasa dhatu. Rasa is the first tissue formed from which rest of the tissue are nourished. When this rasagni is weak, the ahara rasa is improperly processed. This improperly processed rasa due to the weakness of rasagni is called ama.

In this instance, the weakness of hotness (as mentioned by Vagbhata, explained above, Ref – A.Hr.Su.13/25) is considered to be weakness of rasagni instead of jatharagni as mentioned by Vagbhata. This is explained by Hemadri.

Definition of ama showing the characteristic features of ama
Ama is that which is –

  • Avipakva – improperly processed
  • Asamyuktam – unbound or not integrated (discrete and viscious)
  • Durgandham – foul smelling
  • Bahu pichchilam – very sticky
  • Sadanam sarva gatranam – has capacity to cause weakness in the entire body or body parts

Definition of ama showing it as intermingling of excessively vitiated doshas
The intermingling of excessively vitiated doshas lead to the formation of ama just like poison is formed from kodrava (kind of decayed cereal).

Definition of ama showing it as product of prolonged stagnation (retention) of improperly formed digestive juices (food) in the stomach

The improperly digested food due to retention in the stomach gains the form of decayed material and this further gains form of poison. Thus undigested food leads to formation of anna visha which is responsible for manifestation of many systemic diseases.

Causative factors

Causative factors for Ama (Charaka Samhita Vimanasthana 2/8)
Causes related to food (Ahara) –
Guru bhojana – intake of foods that are heavy to digest
Ruksha bhojana – dry foods
Sheeta bhojana – cold foods
Shushka bhojana – dried foods
Dvishta bhojana – disliked foods
Vishtambhi bhojana – foods that cause
Vidahi bhojana – foods that cause burning sensation
Ashuchi bhojana – contaminated foods
Viruddha bhojana – incompatible foods
Akala bhojana – untimely food intake

Mental factors (Manasika Karanas) –
Kama – desire
Krodha – anger
Lobha – greed
Moha – confusion
Irshya – jealousy
Shoka – grief
Mana – arrogance
Udvega – agitation
Bhaya – fear

According to the reference Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana 2/9,
due to factors like worry (chinta), grief (shoka), fear (bhaya), anger (krodha), improper sleeping postures (dukha shayya), keeping awake at night (prajagara), the food taken in proper quantities and even the foods that are compatible does not get digested.

Events causing formation of ama

Weak belly fire is the chief culprit – Acharya Vagbhata has said – ‘Sarve api rogah mande agnau…’ which means all the systemic diseases are caused by weak digestive fire. Such weak agni will not digest the food properly.

Formation of immature nutritive juices – The improperly digested food (as a result of weak digestive fire) produces nutritive juices which are improperly processed. This immature nutritive juice of improperly processed food is called ama. This ama is formed in the stomach. This ama will produce toxic effect very quickly and hence is called as amavisha.

Absorption and circulation of improperly digested food or ama – Such immature digestive juices formed in the stomach is absorbed into the system through intestines and put into circulation through heart and its blood vessels. This immature ahara rasa is called ama.

Ama causes multiple blocks leading to deficit nutrition and deficit expulsion of unwanted metabolites – This ama, owing to its sticky nature (bahu picchila guna) sticks to the walls of the cells and channels and cause blocks. When the channels of the body blocked by ama, they fail to transport essential materials needed for formation of tissues, nutrients etc from one place to other or from place of production to place of utilization. Due to the blocks caused by ama, the cellular metabolites and excreta of the body are not expelled properly and get stagnated in the body.

Tissue damage due to blocks caused by ama – The stagnated waste products undergo decay and cause toxic effects in the body. Due to the effect of blocks, deficit nutrition and improper cleansing of the body the tissues and channels get damaged.

Causation of diseases due to tissue damage and channel blocks – As a result many diseases are caused. The effect of ama also lowers immunity and strength of the body. Therefore the vyadhi or disease is also called as amaya (that which is caused by ama).

Sama doshas, dhatus and malas
When the doshas get associated with ama they will be called as sama doshas. (Sa+ama = with ama).
These saam doshas are pathological states of doshas that are capable of causing many diseases.

Similarly the tissues associated with amam are called sama dhatus and the waste products of the body associated with ama are sama malas. Just like sama doshas, sama dhatus and sama malas also cause diseases.
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Kapha Dosha and Ama

Because of Ama formation, Rasa Dhatu is not well-formed. This pathology mainly affects the Amashaya. Amashaya is the place where, Prakrita Kapha Dosha gets formed, during the process of digestion. Hence, Ama leads to ill-formed Kapha Dosha, leading to symptoms like

Srotorodha –  Obstruction of the channels, pores,
Balabhramsha – loss of strength,
Gaurava – feeling of heaviness of the body,
Anila Moodata – inactivity of Anila (vata),
Alasya – laziness, lassitude,
Apakti – loss of digestive power,
Nishteeva – Person spits saliva frequently, more of expectoration,
Malasanga – constipation or low frequency of urination leading to accumulation of wastes,
Aruchi – anorexia,
Klama – exhaustion.

Medicines for Ama Pachana from Sahasrayoga Textbook

Pachana kashayam
Amritadi Kashayam (Pachanamrita Kashayam)

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